Making connections: Volunteers line up to help veterans at yearly appreciation event

Making connections: Volunteers line up to help veterans at yearly appreciation event

For some military personnel, switching back to civilian life can be difficult.

The Mid-Columbia Veteran Appreciation Fair and Stand Down is trying to fix that, one connection at a time.

The event exists to ease a number of obstacles vets face at home after sacrificing so much to keep us safe.

Because sometimes heroes need heroes too, just ask a veteran.

Retired U.S. Army SFC Michelle Shaw first enlisted in 1975, serving until 2014 after two years in Afghanistan.

"It's rough coming back because family members don't understand what we've dealt with and gone through," she said.

SFC Shaw's service didn't end when she got back to the country she loves.

She's joined a handful of voluntary operations serving veterans throughout the Tri-Cities.

"I feel it's my cause," Shaw said. "I enjoy doing it because I like to see all the veterans, and being part of a community."

She says the annual fair and stand down are valuable.

More than 60 different organizations showed up this year, with hundreds of volunteers wanting to help national heroes.

Veteran-turned-Volunteer Rob Horne volunteers with Heroes on the Water, a non-profit taking veterans and active-duty personnel fly-fishing and kayaking free of charge.

"I thought the military was enough but apparently I was wrong because I love doing this with them."

Horne says local support for veterans is overwhelming, but too often veterans and their families don't know where to start or what's available.

"I'm surprised when I talk to a number of veterans who haven't heard of these type of opportunities," he explained.

Opportunities to ask for help and socialize.

With others who understand what they've been through.

SFC Shaw says the act of opening up has value in itself.

"Some of them don't talk about what's happened, they're quiet and they don't talk."

She says it's something she finds incredibly therapeutic.

"I think it's really great because it gets them to open up, and to meet with others they served with, and it gets them together," she explained. "To me it is very important, It's important for every one of us."

Organizers for the yearly event say veterans unable able to make it to Friday's event should visit the Columbia Basin Veteran's Center.

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